Iowa receives additional federal flood funding


A flooded field during the flood of 2008 ( Joe Germuska / Flickr)
A flooded field during the flood of 2008 ( Joe Germuska / Flickr)

A United States Department of Housing and Urban Development grant will help make Iowa better prepared for flooding and nutrient reduction, according to a report in The Gazette.

New funding from the National Disaster Resilience Competition totaling almost $97 million will help watersheds form Watershed Management Authorities. These authorities will develop and assess conservation projects based on needs of the community, many of which are rural and have smaller populations.

Iowa received the award in a field of 39 other applicants largely because of the Iowa Flood Center and the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, according to the Gazette report. While details are forthcoming from a Friday announcement by Governor Terry Branstad, counties that experienced high loss of topsoil were targeted for the funding.

Warm and record wet winter reported in 2015


Storm clouds over Iowa during a November system that brought tornado warnings. (Carl Wycoff / Creative Commons)
Storm clouds over Iowa during a November system that brought tornado warnings. (Carl Wycoff / Creative Commons)
KC McGinnis | January 14, 2016

Iowa saw an unusually warm and exceedingly wet winter in 2015 according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA reported that 2015 was characterized by a warm pattern stretching from August 31 to December 31. During those 123 days, only 25 recorded below average temperatures across the state. Iowa temperatures during that period were 5.8 degrees above normal, the warmest for that period since 1931.

A particularly notable storm system brought Iowa its wettest December ever. A precipitation event from December 12-14 brought an astounding statewide average of 2.8 inches of rainfall. For perspective, this single storm system brought more precipitation over three days than every other winter month in Iowa history except December 1982, February 1881 and February 1915. Combined with a  heavy Christmas Eve system that gave many Iowans an unexpected white Christmas, several Iowa cities shattered previous precipitation records. Grundy Center’s 8.2 inches of precipitation dwarfed its previous December record of 3.74 inches set in 1982, while Des Moines’ 5.44 inches broke its previous record of 3.72 inches set in 1931.

The heavy precipitation contributed to devastating flooding downstream from Missouri to Texas. This continued a trend of unpredictability in weather patterns – which even included tornado warnings in November – aided by higher atmospheric temperatures and increased moisture in the atmosphere, according to Iowa Flood Center Director Witold Krajewski.

Flooding along the Mississippi River continues to move south


A hay bale get swept away by the rising Mississippi River near Commerce, MO on Dec. 31, 2015 (Missouri National Guard/Flickr)
A hay bale gets swept away by the rising Mississippi River near Commerce, Mo. on Dec. 31, 2015 (Missouri National Guard/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | January 5, 2016

Deadly flooding along the Mississippi River surges southward this week as areas of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi are expected to reach moderate to major flood stages.

The river is expected to crest early this week along the Tennessee-Arkansas state line and then along the Arkansas-Mississippi state line later in the week. Parts of the Mississippi River along Louisiana may not crest for another week and half.

Seven million people in 15 states are facing the threat of flooding and so far 29 have lost their lives in Illinois and Missouri.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon issued a federal emergency declaration for his state on Saturday which was approved by President Barack Obama.

“The fast-rising flood water inundated several thousand homes and businesses and left behind a trail of destruction, debris and refuse that will have to be cleaned up quickly so that rebuilding can begin and the region can recover,” Gov. Nixon said in a press release. “I appreciate the debris removal assistance the federal government has agreed to provide, and the speed with which the president responded to our request. Federal assistance with debris removal can help ensure the region moves forward from this historic disaster.”

Though Iowa has not been devastated by flooding, heavy rains in the middle of December likely contributed to high river levels south of the Hawkeye State. Des Moines saw 3.78 inches of rain between December 12 and 14 which shattered the previous December precipitation record of 3.72 inches set in 1931. Last week Iowa governor Terry Branstad deployed roughly 45 Iowa National Guard members to assist with flood efforts in Missouri.

On the Radio: Record rainfall leads to intense flooding along Mississippi River


Flooding in St. Louis, one of the hardest-hit areas along the Mississippi.
Flooding in St. Louis, one of the hardest-hit areas along the Mississippi.
KC McGinnis | January 4, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at how an unseasonably wet December in Iowa has affected millions along communities downstream on the Mississippi River. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Wet winter leads to flooding

Unprecedented rainfall in Iowa last month has led to intense flooding along the Mississippi River from Missouri to Texas.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The rise of the Mississippi River to near record levels, highly unusual for this time of year, has affected millions of people so far and has already been linked to 20 deaths. A major factor in the flooding is the wet winter in Iowa. That’s according to Iowa Flood Center director Witold Krajewski.

“When winter storms in December come as rain, the potential for flooding is high. The ground is wet and saturated, often frozen, vegetation is dormant or absent, and runoff goes to streams and rivers.”

Iowa’s December rainfall came in what the Iowa Environmental Mesonet called mind-blowing totals – likely the heaviest precipitation ever to hit the state during winter. And with increased moisture in the atmosphere due to global warming, Krajewski believes these heavy and unpredictable weather patterns are becoming the norm.

“While it is difficult to say how often we should expect significant rainfall in December, we all are learning to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.”

Keep up to date with Iowa weather patterns at IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m KC McGinnis.

Iowa National Guard called to help with flood efforts in Missouri


Flooding in St. Louis, one of the hardest-hit areas along the Mississippi (Team Saint Louis / Creative Commons)
Flooding in St. Louis, one of the hardest-hit areas along the Mississippi (Team Saint Louis / Creative Commons)
KC McGinnis | January 1, 2016

As residents of St. Louis and surrounding communities along the Mississippi River respond to unprecedented winter flooding caused by heavy winter rains in Iowa and Minnesota, members of the Iowa National Guard are preparing to help.

The Iowa National Guard is sending dozens of members and vehicles to communities like High Ridge, Mo., to help with water purification and transportation after the city’s water treatment plant was closed due to flooding and contamination of its water.

Mississippi River flooding has so far caused forced evacuations, interstate blockages, and multiple wastewater treatment closures like the one in High Ridge. The flooding is due in large part to heavy winter precipitation upstream that came in the form of rain instead of snow in December. The unusual rainstorms can be attributed to increased moisture in the atmosphere caused by human-induced warming of the planet.

Winter rainstorms contribute to near-record flooding along Mississippi River


Flooding in St. Louis, one of the hardest-hit areas along the Mississippi.
Flooding in St. Louis, one of the hardest-hit areas along the Mississippi. (TeamSaintLouis/Creative Commons)
KC McGinnis | December 31, 2015

Intense, unseasonal flooding along the Mississippi River this month is wreaking havoc on cities from Missouri and Illinois to Texas. The rise of the Mississippi River to near record levels has affected millions of people so far and has already been linked to 20 deaths. A major factor in the flooding is the wet winter in Iowa and Minnesota, where precipitation that would normally appear as snow has instead come down as rainfall in record amounts.

“When winter storms in December come as rain, the potential for flooding is high,” said Iowa Flood Center Director Witold Krajewski. “the ground is wet and saturated, often frozen, vegetation is dormant or absent, and the runoff goes to streams and rivers.”

The rainfall in Iowa this month has come in “mind blowing totals” according to the Iowa Environmental Mesonet, which reported that mid-December storms were likely the heaviest precipitation ever to hit Iowa during winter. With climate change as a major factor, these heavy and unpredictable storms are becoming the norm.

“While it is difficult to say how often we should expect significant rainfall in December,” said Krajewski, “we all are learning to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.”

Iowa Flood Information System now on Twitter


Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 2.41.16 PM

KC McGinnis | December 15, 2015

The Iowa Flood Information System, a powerful tool developed at the Iowa Flood Center to help Iowans keep track of current and potential flood conditions in real time across the state, is now on Twitter: @IFIS_Warnings.

Following the Twitter handle will give users another way to keep track of flood alert levels in their part of the state. Each tweet from @IFIS_Warnings gives a flood alert update from a different Iowa river at a specific Iowa city, indicating either an increase, decrease or cancellation of a flood warning.

IFIS remains relevant for Iowans even in December, with record rains causing flooding in Des Moines and across the state Monday, closing roads and causing headaches for commuters. Several counties received more than three inches of rain in the unseasonal storm.

For help using the Iowa Flood Information System, refer to this tutorial: